Immigrant women fight back shocking label of "welfare queens".

From Restore Fairness blog

March is the month where International Women's Day celebrates the strides women have made, in spite of all they have to endure. Like Rosa Morales, an immigrant woman who turned her life around and went from the brink of being deported, to being awarded a scholarship for her contribution to society.

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A story a day should keep enforcement at bay

From the Restore Fairness blog.

No matter what the cause, it’s always the individual stories that resonate deeply. These stories really shed light on how broken the immigration system really, giving us deep insights into the immigrant experience.

Vozmob or “Mobile Voices” is an open-source platform that gives immigrant day laborers in L.A. access to the digital sphere by letting them use cellphones and MMS technology to create photographic, narrative slide-shows as a way to share stories about their lives and communities. In “Working Hands,” a seamstress uses photographs to illustrate the painstakingly detailed and skillful work done by immigrant workers across Los Angeles. The images tell the story of personal dignity and pride in the work done by hundreds of people across the nation.

Vozmob harnesses the power of personal stories to change the way immigrant communities are perceived. In an early Vozmob workshop, a Google search for the phrase “day laborer” revealed a disturbing stereotype, that many crimes are committed by illegal aliens who work as day laborers. By allowing immigrant workers to share their lives, both within their community and outside, the project launched by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California is changing these false perceptions.

The power of storytelling has been embraced as dramatically by the DREAM Act movement, a movement led by undocumented youth to claim their right to live freely. A moving narrative by Matias Ramos, an immigrant rights advocate since high school describes what he went through while facing deportation. An excerpt from Chapter 1, “The Deported”-

Rush hour traffic in Downtown Minneapolis, and it’s snowing again. I look out the blurry window and can barely see the faces of the people in the van next to ours. I know for a fact, however, that nobody in that packed freeway can see me or any of the other six illegal immigrants on our way to be deported from the United States. The two ICE agents sitting in the front live in a different world, their radio muting any sounds from us: the illegals in the back. An unmarked van, owned by the Department of Homeland Security, is taking us to a county jail in Albert Lea, Minnesota, near the border with Iowa. There, we will wait for our deportation date when the paperwork clears….I try to get my mind somewhere else by going back to the church songs we sang as kids…

In Chapter 2, “We don’t have papers,”, Matias candidly writes about his lack of papers, and his involvement with the DREAM Act movement-

Way before being trapped in a van in Minneapolis, and because my papers expired, I started working for immigration reform in the United States. I work on immigration because I don’t have papers. There are a lot of people like me. They should really be doing something else, but they work on immigration. They have degrees in engineering, political science, and education. They have acting careers and business plans on hold – while they work on immigration…I did not go back to Argentina in 2008 because we had just helped Obama win and because we were going to work hard to pass the DREAM Act in the first 100 days.  The DREAM Act is an old but little-known proposal to start reforming immigration like you would start rescuing a sinking ship: with the kids…

Some days it is hard to be optimistic. But it’s stories like these, from the hundreds of day laborers whose work goes unnoticed on a daily basis and brave activists like Matias, that power the movement. So don’t stop reading, watching, learning, sharing and telling stories. And whatever you do, don’t stop dreaming.

Photo courtesy of vozmob.net

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Sponsor of SB1070 doesn't understand it. The Daily Show does (and doesn't like it)

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Three simple images. Dora, Eric from Chips, and a serial killer. Now guess – who looks “reasonably suspicious” of not having papers and therefore should be stopped and questioned by the Arizona police as per it’s new law, SB1070?

That’s the question Daily Show host Jon Stewart asked on the show last night, referencing the images above. Calling out the “draconian new immigration law” for being an affront to democracy by requiring people to carry their documents on them, he likened it to a time in the pre-civil rights era when newly freed black slaves were required to carry IDs. Jokes apart, the staged sketch gave us a little taste of what life could be like if SB1070 was, in fact, enforced in Arizona. It was the same question posed to Governor Jan Brewer, when signing the bill into law, to which she replied, “I don’t know what an undocumented immigrant looks like?”

Confusion around the bill is rife. In an interview on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, co-sponsor of the bill Senator Huppenthal agreed that it would be racial profiling were officers to check the status of someone based on “reasonable suspicion”, thereby going against the statute of the bill that he signed into law. About 8 mins. into the clip, Chris Matthews asks Senator Huppenthal -

Under the law you passed and was signed by the governor this week, can a police officer who spots a car with five or six people in it, who he thinks because of instinct, experience, whatever, evidence, whatever you use— can he stop that car and say, I think these people are here illegally, I‘m going to stop and check them?  Can he under the law do that, without any crime involved?  Can he do that?

After hedging the question, Senator Huppenthal answered-

You know, the racial profiling was illegal before this bill. It‘s illegal after it.  The bill itself makes it illegal…No, he cannot.  That would be – that would just simply be racial profiling, and that would not be permitted under the law.

Since its passage, civil rights groups, advocacy groups and President Obama have critiqued SB1070 for practically mandating racial profiling and violating fundamental notions of fairness. Clearly, when its co-sponsors cannot articulate its impact, then its effects will be even more adverse. These are already being felt on Arizona’s economy and tourism as calls for an economic boycott come to light, even as Governor Brewer continues to deny any wrongdoing. Meanwhile Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has taken a strong opposition stand to what he considers an unconstitutional and unenforceable law, including approaching the Phoenix City Council to give their support to a lawsuit filed by the city of Phoenix to prevent the laws implementation because of its effects on civil rights and costs associated with its wrongdoings.

SB1070 is going to have ripple effects. For the state of Arizona, for its potential copycat effect across the nation, and for the ideals of equality and justice. Take action now and stop this dangerous law from being implemented.

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At this point, I think Obama has kissed Democrats goodbye…

As of this morning it seems that Obama is ready to deal with the Right... extend the Bush tax cuts for a couple of years in exchange for one year's extension of Unemployment funding. The tax cut deal is tentative. It hasn't gone through Congress yet (although McConnell is probably dribbling with laughter in his office), but it probably will.

When even Conservatives like Joe Scarborough sees and comments on the fact that Obama is moving directly to the Right... and will not increase job creation much, but will add at least a trillion new bucks to the deficit. And who is going to lend it to us? The Chinese? Are we going to listen to Obama's financial team that extending tax cuts are going to get us out of recession?

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What does the State of the Union hold for immigration reform?

From the Restore Fairness blog-

Delivered to Congress last night, President Obama’s second State of the Union address was one that looked squarely into the future, and was charged with optimism, hope and the spirit of cooperation-

We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we  share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled. That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation…Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.

These words, spoken early in the speech, did more than honor Christina Green and the other victims of the tragic shooting that took place in Tucson, Arizona on January 8th. Along with noting the empty chair in the room and saying a prayer for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the President said, in his opening remarks, that the tragedy in Tucson served as a reminder that we were all greater than our parties and political affiliations, and that in order to face the great challenges that lie ahead, it is important to “move forward together.” This emphasis on cooperation between the two parties was symbolized by the fact that, for the first time, Democrat and Republican members of Congress sat together at the State of the Union address, representing a show of unity for Gabrielle Giffords.

In a speech that focused on science, technology, clean energy and education, President Obama chose to avoid specifics in favor of a rhetorical approach that employed storytelling to illustrate points. In addition to invoking the repeal of the contentious “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the military, he surprised immigration and human rights advocates by spending some time on the issue of immigration reform. In the spirit of allowing everyone to shape their own destiny and contribute to the future of the country, the President expressed support for immigration reform and the enactment of the DREAM Act that would give an estimated 2 million undocumented youth who have lived in the country since they were children, and gone through the educational system, to be put on a path to citizenship. He said-

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense…Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.

The issue of immigration has always been a contentious subject; one on which lawmakers have remained extremely divided. What cannot be disputed, however, is that the current immigration system is broken and desperately needs fixing. Currently, there are approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, people who work hard to seek a better life for themselves and their children. Mostly living in the shadows, a lot of people are forced to work for minimum wage, facing inhumane conditions while being denied basic care. Following 9-11, the government’s harsh policies regarding immigrants have resulted in a denial of human rights and due process, with the government allowing raids and arrests without warrants, holding thousands in inhumane detention centers, and deporting people with a fair trial.

While it is tempting to be optimistic that Congress will heed the President’s advice, put aside their differences, and work on fixing the broken immigration system through fair and humane immigration reform, this is not the first time that President Obama has called upon lawmakers to address some of these problems. In the four times that the President has addressed Congress during his term, he has brought up the issue of immigration reform on three occasions. Further, there has never been any doubt about his support for the DREAM Act.

Due to the President’s support, and the work of Senator Harry Reid and other supporters, the DREAM Act even made it to a vote in the Senate in December of last year, only to be struck down. It is also difficult to ignore the fact that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement deported a record number of people in 2010, and put into place a high number of agreements between federal immigration and local law enforcement agencies. These agreements, like the 287g and Secure Communities program, sanction immigration enforcement at the local level without clear objectives or meaningful oversight, resulting in eroding public trust in the local police, and in racial and ethnic profiling, as well as the unlawful detention of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

So yesterday, when the President spoke about what an uphill battle immigration reform is for Congress, immigrant rights advocates like Frank Sharry from America’s Voice could not help but wish for a more aggressive approach in which he got on the “offensive” and “challenged the Republicans on comprehensive immigration reform.”

As many states seek to introduce harsh anti-immigrant legislation that threatens the security and freedom of thousands around the country, we will wait to see whether the Congress heeds his advice, and works together towards a solution to the immigration system, it is poignant to invoke President Obama’s words-

We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea – the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny…We do big things. From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That’s how we win the future.

We need to live in a nation that ensures equal rights, justice and due process to all, irrespective of their national origin, ethnicity, race, or citizenship. We are daring to dream.

Photo courtesy of latina.com

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